A burst blood vessel in the brain, otherwise known as a cerebral aneurysm, is a very dangerous and life threatening condition. It happens when a thin wall of a blood vessel bulges out and fills with blood, increasing pressure until the vessel bursts.
The vast majority of cerebral aneurysms occur from pre-existing thin spots in blood vessel walls. Statistically, this correlates with people with specific genetic conditions and circulatory diseases. Some examples include polycystic kidney disease and connected tissue disorder. Cerebral aneurysms can also occur from force traumas to the skull, high blood pressure, infection, tumors, and drug use, especially frequent and repeated use of cocaine.
Cerebral aneurysms are extremely dangerous, often debilitating or fatal. Because an aneurysm is so delicate, it can burst at wildly unpredictable intervals and then bleed into the brain, which can cause nerve damage, strokes, or death. Once an aneurysm bursts, it can heal and then burst again later.
Small aneurysms or aneurysms that are not continually growing or changing size can be very hard to diagnose. When an aneurysm grows large enough to put pressure on the surrounding brain tissue, you can feel a range of symptoms depending on the area. Common symptoms before bursting include pressure or pain behind the eye, numbness, or weakness. After bursting, a sudden and extremely painful headache is common, along with vomiting, nausea, a stiff neck, and possibly loss of consciousness.
Methods of Diagnosis
To determine whether an aneurysm is present, a doctor may order tests. A CT is most common (computed tomography) and may be coupled with a contrast dye injected into the blood for a clearer image. An MRI is also useful (magnetic resonance imaging). MRIs use a massive and powerful magnetic field to create an image, so patients should be sure they can be exposed to magnetic fields before undergoing these tests.
The main purpose of treatment for a cerebral aneurysm is to prevent future bleeds (cerebral hemorrhages) that could be debilitating or fatal to the patient. Neurosurgeons can often clip a cerebral aneurysm or coil the aneurysm to prevent future bursting. Patients need to discuss a course of treatment with a qualified neurosurgeon for individual treatment plans.